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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Academic Turn-Ons

In my last post, I listed the reasons why I'm no longer keen on academia. However, I hinted to the fact that perhaps things may be better elsewhere and that I might still give it a shot. Here's why:

1. I like research. Generally, of course - there are days were I want to throw my computer out the window and go work at McDonalds, but that happens to the best of us. I enjoy learning about Astronomy, and honestly what I do is pretty cool.

2. I like teaching. Running two outreach programs has been one of the best parts of my PhD experience. I love showing the public how cool, fun, interesting, and important science is, especially kids.

3. I'm super organized and can multitask the crap out of everything. Seriously - I have mad organizing and time-management skills. This is something that would help me greatly in an academic career, since you have to juggle so many things at once (research, teaching, service, grant writing, plus "real life" stuff). I think I would be bored with a job that just has one main task.

4. Other departments sound much better. In fact, my undergrad and masters experiences tells me that there are definitely better places to work. I also get that feeling when I visit or chat with grad students/faculty from other departments. Clearly there is something odd about where I am now, and that it's not the norm.

5. The prestige. Yes, honestly, this has a bit of weight. I would love to be a professor.

The problem is do the negative things of academia outweigh the positives? What would it take for me to continue in academia? I would have to find a post-doc:

a) in the area we move too. This is non-negotiable. DH and I have agreed (for various reasons) that he will find a job and we will move there, then I will start looking for something. I also don't want to do the long-distance thing, especially since we want to start a family ASAP.

b) with a supervisor and a department that is supportive: with science, of course, but also the workings of academia as a whole. I want to feel like I'm part of the department, by sitting on committees or organizing events. I want to learn about grant writing, ethics, and all the other things I mentioned in the last post.

c) where I'm doing research that I really want to do. I don't want to spend my days working on something that doesn't interest me. I made that mistake with my PhD, and although I find my work somewhat interesting, it's not at all what I signed up for.

d) that includes teaching and/or outreach. I love it and don't want to give it up.

e) where they understand I have a "real-life" too. We do want to start a family, and I don't want to feel guilty for doing so.

f) where I might have the chance to move up the ladder. We want the next place we move to be permanent - we're tired of being nomads. It would be nice if there was at least an opportunity for advancement.

g) where I can learn skills applicable outside of Astronomy. In case f) doesn't pan out, I want to be able to transfer my skills to other career paths. Again, this is what I wanted in my PhD, but it didn't happen.

This may seem like a list of demands, but I'm starting to realize that this is my life and I need to start making decisions that will make me happy (because no one else is going to do that for me). If I can't find a post-doc position that I will truly enjoy on all levels, then it's just not worth it to me. Of course there are things I would compromise on, as with anything in life, but I need to make sure I don't sacrifice so much that I end up hating my job and myself.